Merry Christmas, everyone. This is the time of the year where everyone is with their families with happy holiday festivities. However, I'm sure this is the season where some people also feel the most alone. So I'm here today posting my first blog and launching my first more professional and personal blog website, as well as sharing with you my first polished original track. So here goes. Do press play on the music link above. It's a cheerful song, I promise. I hope reading this article brings you some love and light, and a smile :)
Have you ever felt lost, alone, discouraged, stuck, and suppressed? For the longest time, I have felt that way. Depressed, broken, and all alone. I am sure each and everyone has experienced bouts of highs and lows at some point in our lives, especially during our mid twenties or quarter-life crisis.
Know that you are not alone.
For me to get through these emotions, I believe in the therapeutic use of music and arts as a form of catharsis, or the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from our strong or repressed emotions. We must always have access to an outlet for expression, and music and art is the medium for it. That is why I am a strong music and arts advocate.
We all have voice and story to tell. Each of us has a unique and individual talent that needs to be recognized, nurtured, encouraged, and honed with practice along the way. We all have the potential to grow and progress to go to where we want to be. It is persistence, consistency, discipline, meeting the right people, and our endless drive to continue in our pursuit of passion that will help us reach the destination. While talent is universal, it is said that opportunity is not.
This is a small part of of my story and journey.
WHO IS MS. CRYSTALLINE?
That's me! Ms. Crystalline is a spin off my real name, Crystal Lin. I am a music and arts advocate, artist, independent performing & recording artist, musician, singer-songwriter, event organizer & producer, emcee & host, writer & blogger, inspirational & motivational speaker, talent pool & community manager, artistic director and creative mastermind of World Extravaganza, an Open Mic Community Music and Arts Organization that I spearheaded and started here living in Manila, Philippines.
WHAT IS YOUR ART AND MUSICAL BACKGROUND?
I really can't say I have much really. I am a current and constant work in progress when it comes to music and art since I do not do music full time. I currently have a day job that supports my music and art. I do want to make a living from doing what I love, which is why I continue to lead and spearheading this passion project.
I still haven't completely grasped music theory, I can't read music notes properly, and I am still mainly learning how to play the guitar and guitarlele, getting the right djembe and egg shaker beat in every song, performing at many other Open Mic and open line up events in the metro, finding inspiration to write new songs, figuring out tunes, melodies, songwriting tips, and learning how to set up a fully functioning home recording studio for music production. Being a Third Culture Kid, and having moved around a lot across continents, I have gone through quite a few piano, voice, and guitar teachers both in Southern California in the United States and here in the Philippines.
I call myself an artist to cover all types of art I dabble in. I am a master in none. I do some occasional photography, drawing and cooking, which is also considered an art!
Graduating with an Digital and Studio Art Minor at University of California, Irvine alongside my graduate B.A. in Economics degree, I was involved in Fashionista Club, Latin Dance Team, and Uniting Voices back in college. I took several introductory photography, art, and video editing classes to fulfill my minor. I created only one final drawing project out of charcoal at the end of my drawing class, which I am proud of and is hanging in my room in my US home. My final art project was a video installation project "Shoes", which I may re-create again in near future.
I did not discover my music path or start music at an early age nor am I a music prodigy. Although due to my too many different kind of interests and despite my inability to focus in and master one craft, my overall love and passion for music and art has always been there.
Inspired by the concept that Mark Nicolas, the Founding Father who took the initiative to start Uniting Voices at UCI years ago, I am carrying on the legacy to help and lead others by uniting voices within the independent local music and arts scene and community, starting in where I reside here in the Philippines.
Every week, I organize, host, and meet new musicians and artists through the World Extravaganza Open Mic Community Music and Arts Organization that I spearheaded here in Metro Manila. As a passion project, doing these events every week is what keeps me alive and going with a burning passion to get me where I am today, and ultimately to fulfill a sense of my life purpose.
I am excited to finish, polish and publish my first album on Spotify that I am still currently working on with my first guitar teacher in the Philippines, who will also be producing, arranging, mixing and mastering the original songs for my currently untitled album.
You can hear my original demo tracks on my Soundcloud account. I am excited to share with you and hear my own live sound with a full band together for the album and video launch event hopefully by mid next year, invite the friends I met at the World Extravaganza Open Mic Community to play as supporting front acts for my own launch, as well as collaborate and work with other graphic artists, photographers, and illustrators for the album cover art design, and of course the making of the "I'm In Love" music video, which you can hear on the link above and on my music page.
AND WHEN DID YOU START MUSIC?
I have always been told that I have a nice voice, but for the longest time I didn't know what to do with it. People always tell us that we're either born with the gift of artistic talent or not. I have always been told that if I wanted to pursue music and singing, it is something that I have to be born with the blood and have the connection to relatives who were musicians and artists in the industry. Unfortunately, I am not to related to any famous musician or artist. I also have been told that I should have started earlier and be consistent with my craft. Since I was born into a family of entrepreneurs that was in business, I was conditioned to believe that that was my path, too.
My first encounter with music was singing an English song at an Open Stage Karaoke Bar in Taiwan when I was three years old. Everyone was impressed with my English and voice. I actually cannot remember this event. I loved listening to my dad's collection of American music and collected tons of Cassette Tapes and CDs with my allowance. I would be often found singing alone to myself in the swings in elementary school because of an identity crisis of being a Third Culture Kid at an International School. I spent most of my time just with my CD player hoping to belong since friendship was fleeting, they came and went in that kind of environment. Back in the day, I watched MTV Music Videos and MYX countdown charts following my super favorite teenage talented Canadian band of brothers, The Moffatts (all who play music instruments and sing). My favorite shows were always with music that came a decade late in the 90's in the developing country such as Jem and the Holograms and Mister Roger's Neighborhood. My very first concert I attended was of my favorite solo artist, Josh Groban concert at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, California during my first year of college.
My music journey began when I took piano lessons back in my elementary school days until I was 11 years old living in the Philippines. I had quit along the way because I was taught that excelling in school, and getting a 4.0 GPA was more important than any artistic life pursuit and that music and art should remain a hobby. I even backed out in showcasing to sing at our 7th grade Talent Show. I took piano lessons back up again for a short while after moving to California to finish high school, but stopped again when I moved away for college, and then started voice and guitar lessons back again when I was moving back and forth between the California, Taiwan, and the Philippines to then finally decided to make Manila my home for majority of my year.
Singing was not enough. What else could I do with my voice if I didn't learn how to play an instrument? So on my trips back and forth I took guitar, piano and voice lessons here and there from several teachers.
Before I took guitar lessons and started the World Extravaganza Open Mic Community, I heavily explored the local music and arts scene in Manila and found a supportive community called Ukulele Manila, where I was inspired to play and first bought a ukulele because I thought playing four strings was easier than six strings. However, I feel it is actually quite harder, so that's why I sold it and now I have a guitarlele. I only made one ukulele cover music video that I uploaded on my YouTube Channel, which is " Valentine" by Kina Grannis.
I started writing songs in 2012 when I took the initiative to start pursuing music seriously upon my return to the Philippines. Within a few months, despite the rusty guitar playing you can see on my few cover videos on my YouTube Channel, I came up with a simple 4-chord progression and my own lyrics, inspired back then by the current song on repeat on my playlist, "Dancin' Away With My Heart", by Lady Antebellum, from their 2001 album Own The Night. My very first original song, "You'll Always Be" then came to life with the help of some friends, which is a nostalgic song dedicated to the memory of letting go of first love.
WAS YOUR FAVORITE SUBJECT IN SCHOOL MUSIC AND ART?
Yes. In school, my favorite subjects had always been music, singing in a choir, writing journals, creating art, and playing team sports during recess and physical education classes. Some of my favorite activities in elementary school was afternoon Arts and Crafts, Dance, and Kids in the Kitchen.
What is common about these subjects, is that it is a cathartic outlet for self-expression to release emotions.
Writing out my thoughts, creating beautiful art or things that brings out who I am, and even an intense, challenging and interactive team workout releases stress, and allows me to process and release deep emotions. Even exploring the kitchen and the feeling of achievement to bring something delicious home that I made, made me happy. In knowing what I really enjoyed in school, it helped me discover myself to continue and pursue my passions, and ultimately deciding to be a creator of music and arts events to bring back the community of sharing and love, celebrating individuality and unique differences, and all the while, having art and music activities that serve as a therapeutic healing experience for people.
WHAT SET YOU BACK FROM PURSUING YOUR GOALS BEFORE?
Being a perfectionist at a young age, I never learned to enjoy the process. I always had fear and was afraid of experimenting and trying new things because I was just so scared to fail. I always excelled in school and at one point I thought because I got all As, I was good at everything. My first failure brought be down. After my first failure, I always felt I was not ready or good enough yet to achieve anything great. I was also told that I should have started early and it was always my fault that I did not continue with piano lessons or I'd be making it out there already by now. Throughout my early years, I've had favorite teachers, but I never had a constant mentor who was always there for me, who I really connected with, who motivated, inspired, and encouraged to continue and pursue my craft. There was no a safe haven, space or avenue where I could turn to, to nurture or grow my music and artistic talent unless I joined or am affiliated with a school, church or other organization. Even those places couldn't guarantee a space free from judgement or criticism. It was always about competition, contests, doing things right, being great, or who did it better. There was no music and arts community that existed that offered the kind of support I needed to grow and where I could make friends and feel included for wanting to pursue the music path and not knowing where to start.
In my earlier years, I was consistently being told what to do by different people in my life, how I should live my life, what degree and job I should get so I could make a living and survive. I was always thrown at with negative criticism and judgment, that my voice was not Mariah Carey potential and that I was not going to "make it" out there. In addition to that, I was discouraged to pursue anything that had the matter to do with discovering or going for my own personal dream to do what I wanted in my life because, that would be considered selfish of me. You can't blame anyone for that, and you certainly should not even sabotage or blame yourself for what society tells you should be. I took in all the negativity, in fact, for the longest time, I sulked for years when I moved back to the Philippines because I didn't know what to do with my life here with my "nice voice" and where or how I should even start to pursue my passion and love for music and arts.
SO HOW DID I OVERCOME THIS AND WHAT HAVE I LEARNED SO FAR?
Over the years after I moved back and forth from Southern California, with my frequent stops in Taiwan, with some proper resources on my soul healing journey which some help from friends, I finally decided that enough was enough, and settled down to pursue my goal and dreams in the Philippines.
Although I am not connected to anyone in the music industry here in the Philippines, I continue to organize Open Mics to meet other independent musician and artists as passionate about music and arts as I am, as we start to build a community together and home at World Extravaganza.
So I want to share with you today the 3 MOST IMPORTANT THINGS that I have overcame and learned from the past years. I hope to inspire and encourage you to get started to follow your passion, if you feel you're now at where I was at years ago. Taking the first step is the hardest, but it is certainly most worth and and your efforts will reward you in time.
#1 DON'T BE SCARED. HAVE NO FEAR
I have learned that you should not be scared of anything and allow fear control or stop you to pursue your passion no matter the circumstances in our life. Fear has its purpose, but it may take a while to understand, acknowledge, learn from it and your past mistakes and conditioning. It takes time to heal and your brave inner soul to be strong and truly understand that fear should not and could not set you back from what your heart wants, as long as you don't let it control you. We should never be afraid to speak out and express ourselves and we deserve everything in this life to find what makes us feel good about ourselves and happy.
#2 DON'T CHASE PERFECTION
We must learn to let go of seeking perfection and just take the initiative, to take a step closer to fulfilling our purpose and dream and make it a reality. We must learn to accept our imperfections, learn from our failures along the way and just enjoy the process. If we constantly want to be perfect, we won't be able to get anything done.
The reason why I post and keep up my work in progress and my drafts on Soundcloud is to show the growth and process of my musical journey even if it will take a long time to accomplish. The end product is not an overnight process. It takes years and years and tons of practice. I am not even halfway to where I want to be yet. Nevertheless, I created a Facebook Ms. Crystalline page with organic and genuine likes to track my journey and assess the improvement of my voice, songwriting styles, as well as my change in musical taste and playing techniques, how I sound like when I collaborate with others, and also to share what I do with you. I will also keep it to post updates on this blog looking back at some of my interesting past LiveJournal and Xanga entries, music, travels, food trips, reviews, thoughts, new discoveries, artists I like, helpful tips for encouragement, gaining confidence & self-esteem, embracing yourself and your journey to achieve goals.
I encourage you to keep track of your journey. It doesn't matter how many likes or followers you have on your page, it is your personal music and arts journey and your story to share with others. There are tons of resources out there, so make use of your time, be smart, don't be lazy and do your research. Others will listen, like your page, and hear you out if you are genuine, and if they actually like who you are and what you do. You only want those those genuinely want to hear your work and be appreciated for your music or art, they are the ones that matter. Just keep doing what you're doing and keep growing and improving. Persistence is key.
#3 DIVE IN. JUST DO IT. IT'S NEVER TOO LATE TO START
It is also never too late to start, it does not matter what age you are. If you had to spend your time as an accountant until your in your fifties to earn a living, married and raising for your children but you left your dream to be an musician or artist, so be it, start now and go back to your first love and create again if it is painting, singing, or fashion design. Come participate at our events and showcase your talent or art. Meet people and build connections. Everyone is invited and our Open Mics are for all, it is free to join and play.
I strongly believe that Music and Art Education should be accessible to all. You don't need a a ton of money to make music and art. It would be beautiful to see street kids play and create something beautiful like music or creative scrap art to earn something with their talent instead of them just asking for money. What young kids really need is just a great teacher who supports, believes in their talent and never gives up on them. Fuel your creative energy with your mind, your heart, use your hands (or feet if you have to). The power is within us. Keep meeting people at our events and encouraging friends. Don't be shy to ask them to help you execute your brilliant project idea if needed. Learn to communicate with others and let go of your ego. No one man does everything alone and can receive all the credit for it. Credit goes where credit is due.
Everyone can create and be an artist and tell their story with art different mediums, whether it is writing and performing a song, drawing, flow arts, dance, acting a script, reading a spoken word poetry piece or a combination of all. You determine your own success and achievement of who you are as a musician and artist.
Lastly, I'll add an extra one. The most important lesson I learned is to KEEP ON GOING. Progress for personal growth and change and go at your own pace. Keep pushing yourself to get out of your comfort zone. Never ever allow others and their negativity, criticism and judgement to keep you from discovering and pursuing your life passions. Take your time, keep your dream alive, whatever it may be, and take the action steps to pursue it to make it a reality. Start today. No excuses, no complaining. You only have yourself to blame, yet please don't. Forgive and be kind to yourself. Only hard work and the right positive attitude can get you aligned with the universe to receive all your heart's desires.
I am currently working on this and still dream to become a superstar and I will be working on it as long as I shall live and until the day I die, but I am only going to be the true superstar for the stage and event I will create, produce and share with my fellow World Extravaganza Open Mic Community superstar team of musician and artists.
I love getting to know everyone that keeps coming to my Open Mics and building connections, cross-promoting other related music and art related communities, collectives, productions, and organizations. I have seen major improvement in musicians who just started out, people have sent me appreciative notes that that our events helped them grow, get out of a phase and from the daily grind of their work lives. I am their #1 FAN because I am never tired of hearing the same original songs live over and over again every Open Mic, which you can hear here, yet I am encouraging everyone to do please keep creating original works of art!
There will come a day where there will be a World Extravaganza Celebration! But isn't that every week though? It's always a #WorldExPH party filled with fun, music, art, food, friendship, camaraderie, and most of all, one love. So come on down and join us at World Extravaganza Open Mic Wednesdays at Frank & Dean and Open Mic Thursdays at 121 Allegro.
Let's du-et! :)
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Cheers, love and peace!